Ann Rule - A Fever in the Heart and Other True Cases: And Other True Cases

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A deadly love triangle

Oct 4, 2007
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Captivating true crime stories.

Cons:None come to mind.

The Bottom Line: A Fever in the Heart kept me on the edge of my seat.

Because I’ve been living in a hotel without Internet access for the past couple of weeks, I’ve had lots of time to read books. I finally got around to reading Ann Rule’s 1996 book, A Fever in the Heart and Other True Cases. Over the years, I’ve read most of Ann Rule’s books and her ability to turn horrendous crimes into entertaining reading never ceases to amaze me. I now count A Fever in the Heart as one of my favorite books by Ann Rule.

The bulk of this book consists of the title story, “A Fever in the Heart”. Rule writes in her author’s notes that the case she titled “A Fever in the Heart” happened early in her writing career. She was a fledgling writer with little confidence in her ability to write a true crime book and sell it to a publisher. Nevertheless, she remained captivated by the case and attended every day of the trial in Seattle, Washington. It haunted her for twenty years until she finally wrote the story.

“A Fever in the Heart” is the tragic story of a love triangle gone horribly wrong. With her customary flair for storytelling, Rule relates the tale of two gifted coaches and one beautiful woman whose lives became tangled during the early 1970s in Yakima, Washington. Morris Blankenbaker was a talented athlete, coach, and teacher who had married his high school sweetheart, Jerilee Karlberg. The pair made a handsome couple. They shared two children and nine years together until Glynn “Gabby” Moore came into the picture.

Ten years Blankenbaker’s senior, Gabby Moore was something of a hero in Yakima, having inspired many young athletes to reach successes they never dreamed were possible. Indeed, Morris Blankenbaker had been one of Gabby Moore’s athletes and he had gone on to win a college scholarship that helped him achieve his own dream of inspiring young athletes as a coach. Moore’s life seemed idyllic until his wife, Gay, decided that she wanted a divorce. Alone and depressed, Gabby Moore turned to his friend, Morris Blankenbaker, for help getting back on his feet. Morris allowed his old coach to move into his house with Jerilee and the children.

Jerilee had been happily married to Morris when Gabby Moore moved in, but soon found herself the object of the older coach’s affections. Morris Blankenbaker was younger and more handsome than Moore was, and Jerilee was married to him. But Gabby Moore had built a very successful career on his charisma and persuasiveness. Jerilee soon decided to leave Morris so that she could marry Gabby Moore, who had charmed her with romance and grand promises. Jerilee and Gabby Moore married in September 1975, but they were divorced nine months later.

Jerilee soon found out that Gabby Moore was a raging alcoholic. One minute he’d be loving and gentle, the next, he’d be throwing her out of the house and threatening her. He was extremely possessive of Jerilee, even as he regularly locked her out of their home. Jerilee realized she had made a terrible mistake and decided to go back to Morris, who still loved her. But Gabby Moore wasn’t about to let her go without a fight.

Using his deadly charisma, Gabby Moore vowed to take Jerilee back from Morris, even if it meant he had to resort to murder. He had the whole thing figured out… or so he believed. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Gabby Moore’s plan was terribly flawed and Morris wasn’t the only one who ended up getting killed.

Even though this case was tragically real, Rule’s story has all the components of a good soap opera, right down to the classic “love triangle”. The people involved in this case had so much at stake; they were all talented, attractive, intelligent folks who had everything to live for. Yet because of one man’s malignant jealousy and obsession, two people died and another spent many years in prison. Morris Blankenbaker’s children lost their father and his mother lost her only son.

Ann Rule wrote this story with Morris Blankenbaker’s mother’s blessing. In fact, Morris’s mother had asked Ann Rule to write about her son. Rule’s writing is very respectful, yet captivating.

I don’t usually enjoy Ann Rule’s shorter stories as much as I do the long ones; however, I did like the five short stories in A Fever in the Heart. In “The Highway Accident”, Rule writes about a young man who almost got away with murder. In February 1976 in Salem, Oregon, a couple living in a duplex heard a woman scream. Then there was an uneasy silence. Concerned, the couple called the police, who visited the duplex. When they knocked on the neighbors’ door, no one answered. Likewise, no one answered the phone. The police decided to investigate further and entered the unit. On the surface, everything looked perfectly normal. But police soon discovered an elaborate sham that ended in a grisly murder. The details of this case remind me an awful lot of the more recent Mark Hacking case.

In “Murder without a Body”, Rule writes about a woman who trusted the wrong man and ended up being murdered. The murderer in this case made many bumbling mistakes. The only thing he did right was dispose of the body, which to this day has not been found. Look for Ann Rule’s explanation of the term “corpus delicti”, which is evidently often misused by mystery novelists.

“I’ll Love You Forever” is another sad story about a woman who trusted the wrong man. In this case, the man was a master con artist, who swindled a wealthy widow out of the fortune her late husband had left her. It’s a powerful warning about jumping into relationships too soon, especially after a loved one’s death.

“Black Leather” is a shocking story of a man who narrowly escaped murder at the hands of a sadomasochistic freak. The victim in this case ended up killing his would be murderer, who, as it turns out, was responsible for several unsolved murders in California and Washington State. This story is not for the faint of heart, especially those who are offended by sex crimes. I found this story especially frightening, not so much because of the crimes, but because the sadomasochist was a convicted sex offender who had “graduated” from Washington State’s sex offender program during the 1970s and had actually been responsible for treating other sex offenders.

Rule ends with “Mirror Images”, another story that highlights how disastrous Washington State’s old sex offender program was back in the 1970s. Again, this story has to do with sex crimes, but I didn’t find it quite as shocking and explicit as “Black Leather”… I also didn’t find it quite as interesting.

A Fever in the Heart includes two photo sections, one for the first story and one for the short stories. Having read so many of Ann Rule’s books, I’ve found that I’m usually impressed by her attention to detail, especially in her longer stories. I don’t always like the short stories as much because they sometimes seem like filler. In this book, the short stories were much better than filler, plus the main story is a winner. If you like Ann Rule’s brand of true crime writing, I would certainly recommend this book to you.

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